July 11, 2016 10:21
North Korea on Saturday fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off the coast of Sinpo in South Hamgyong Province, the Joint Chiefs of Staff here said.
The launch came 24 hours after South Korea and the U.S. announced the deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense batteries on the Korean peninsula.
The JCS in a statement said the missile "was ejected from the submarine normally, but the initial flight was unsuccessful." Military officials said the missile traveled several kilometers but then exploded 10 km above ground.
The launch was probably a sign of protest against the U.S. blacklisting last week of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other individuals and entities for human rights abuses.
"It takes several days to prepare a submarine-launched ballistic missile because a submarine has to head out to sea first, so the North must have decided on the launch before South Korea and the U.S. announced the THAAD deployment."
North Korea already on Thursday ordered fishing boats on the East Sea to evacuate the area.
But a government official said, "The provocation supports the need to deploy the THAAD battery."
The SLBM flew far short of the 30 km achieved in a previous launch.
But North Korea watchers said it was unnerving to see it pull off another so-called cold launch, whereby the engines ignite after the missile is out of the water.
A military source said, "North Korea will be able to deploy an SLBM within two or three years." The maximum range of the SLBMs currently under development is estimated at 2,400 km.
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